Problems even worse for trans people of color, study shows
The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have jointly released preliminary results from the largest transgender survey ever completed, showing what most people have assumed as true — that trans people face discrimination in employment at a much higher rate that other minority groups.
The survey of 6,450 transgender people across the United States was taken with the impetus to empirically determine and document the marginalization of transgender lives.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the NCTE, stated the survey was constructed "from the point of view of discrimination and its prevalence." She said that previous surveys were much smaller in size or merely anecdotal in nature.
Keisling, who has an academic background in statistical research, said the survey provided "great, great data" that is already showing is applicability to advocacy work. She said that by teaming with Sue Rankin, an associate professor at Penn State, researchers gained the necessary academic research tools to produce a thoroughly analyzed and "legitimate research study."
The joint effort was launched in September 2008, and sample data from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands was collected through February of 2009. The full data set is still being processed; however, NCTE and NGLTF released preliminary results at the Creating Change Conference in Dallas last week.
Comparisons of the data set to the general population were made using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Labor.
One of the key findings of the survey was that transgender people face unemployment at double the rate of the general population as a whole. During the survey period and prior to current recession unemployment levels, 13 percent of trans respondents were unemployed, compared to 6.5 percent in the general population.
The unemployment rate was even more acute for black (26 percent), Latino (18 percent) and multiracial (17 percent) trans people.
Almost half (47 percent) of the survey respondents reported adverse job action because of their transgender status: Either they did not get a job, were denied a promotion or were fired.
Very striking was that 26 percent of transgender respondents lost their jobs due to their gender identity/expression. That number was higher for black respondents (32 percent) and for multiracial respondents (37 percent).
But most striking, according to Keisling, was that 97 percent of respondents reported experiencing mistreatment, harassment or discrimination on the job, including invasion of privacy, verbal abuse and physical or sexual assault.
High rates of poverty were also reported among transgender respondents. Fifteen percent lived on $10,000 or less per year — double the rate in the general population, which is 7 percent.
Another key finding was the rate of housing instability due to gender identity. Nineteen percent of respondents reported that they currently are homeless or have been in the past. One in four respondents had to move back in with family or with friends.
In regard to health insurance, the survey found that "transgender and gender non-conforming people do not have adequate health coverage or access to competent providers." The respondents had the same rate of coverage as the general population, but only 40 percent had employer-based insurance coverage, compared to 62 percent in the general population.
The survey concludes that "employment protections are paramount," and that current conditions are causing "significant barriers to employment [that] lead to devastating economic insecurity."
Both NCTE and the Task Force urge that "Employment should be based on one’s skills and ability to perform a job. No one deserves to be unemployed or fired because of their gender identity or expression."
No date has been given for the official survey release. For more information on the preliminary survey, go online to TransEquality.org.
Renee Baker is a transgender diversity consultant and can be found online at GenderPower.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 12, 2010.
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